If I Forget Thee, O Earth . . .

by Arthur C. Clarke

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Main characters and theme in Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..."

Summary:

The main characters in Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..." are Marvin and his father. The story's central theme is the importance of preserving Earth and the consequences of nuclear destruction, as Marvin learns about the desolate state of Earth and the hope for humanity's return to their home planet.

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Who are the main characters in Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..."?

Clarke's story has two main characters: Marvin, a ten-year-old boy, and his father.

Marvin is a sensitive boy who lives underground on the moon with other survivors of a nuclear holocaust that happened on earth. He is too young to have ever been on earth, so he has no memories of it. He is excited to be on the surface of the moon and reacts in a positive way to its beauties. Marvin is most excited, however, to see the earth hanging in the sky, yet he also feels the frustration of what has happened to it. He thinks:

Why could they not return? It seemed so peaceful beneath those lines of marching cloud. Then Marvin, his eyes no longer blinded by the glare, saw that the portion of the disk that should have been in darkness was gleaming faintly with an evil phosphorescence: and he remembered. He was looking upon the funeral pyre of a world— upon the radioactive aftermath of Armageddon.

Marvin is saddened. His father, too, regrets what has been done to the planet, which he remembers living on. He finds it of supreme importance to transmit to Marvin what it was like and the dream of humans returning to it hundreds of years in the future, when it is once again inhabitable. Marvin realizes that:

Yet one day—how far ahead?—his children's children would return to claim their heritage.

Marvin knows that he will transmit the same story to his children that his father told them. He is a character who represents hope for a future he will not see. He and his father are not cynical and despairing but full of optimism despite all that has happened.

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Who are the main characters in Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..."?

The main characters of Arthur C. Clarke's story "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..." are Marvin and his father. In the story, Marvin and his father are revealed to be living on the moon. When Marvin sees an "earthrise" for the first time, he can see the glow from the radioactivity on the side of the earth that would normally be in the shadows. His father explains to him that earth had been destroyed by nuclear war and that, aside from the colony of people living on the moon, there are no humans left.

While he has heard much of this before, for Martin, viewing the earthrise makes all of this information hit home. He is saddened by the fact that he will never be able to walk on or experience the earth again and makes the realization that the earth will not be able to be visited, let alone inhabited, for many generations. He now understands that the struggle for the survival of the human race rests on the lunar colony.

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What is the theme of Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..."?

One of the central themes in Arthur C. Clarke's classic science fiction short story "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth" is individualism. It is a post-apocalyptic tale told from the unusual perspective of those who have evaded the apocalypse because they're settled on the moon. The main character is a young boy named Marvin who is driven out onto the surface of the moon by his father, the head scientist of the Lunar colony, to witness the lifeless, irradiated earth.

Marvin's father explains that the Lunar colony represents the best, brightest and last of the human race, and that some day those who are a part of the colony will return to Earth and recolonize it. He emphasizes the hardiness and energy of the lunar colonists and their strong individualism.

Alas, at the end of the story Marvin realizes the goal to resettle the Earth is perhaps unattainable, and certainly impossible in his lifetime. He becomes aware he will spend the rest of his life on the Moon and may eventually take his son onto the surface and instill in him the hope of recolonizing Earth.

While there were many stories dealing with nuclear destruction and devastation in the era Clarke published this story (1951), few capture the sad wistfulness of global destruction quite like this one.

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What is the theme of Arthur C. Clarke's "If I Forget Thee, O Earth..."?

This is probably Clarke's most famous cautionary tale, which is a story with a warning about what will happen in the future if society continues along its present course. The science fiction genre often embraces this leit motif (recurrent theme), which is indeed one of its principal characteristics.

'Take care of the planet before it's too late' could be one theme, or perhaps 'The armaments race will ultimately lead to an atomic holocaust.'  Another could state something like this: 'Mankind will not inherit a future world better than the one he bequeaths today.'

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